Guns don’t kill people. Bullets do.
At least that’s the thinking behind legislation proposed by two Delaware Valley Democrats who are turning their sights on rising gun violence by attempting to restrict access to ammunition.
State Sens. Art Haywood (D-Montgomery/Philadelphia) and John Kane (Delaware/Chester) are sponsoring two bills to make it harder to buy ammo.
The first bill would require the Pennsylvania State Police to perform background checks on anyone who wants to purchase ammunition, just as they do background checks for those who buy guns. The second would require identification to prove ammunition buyers are 18 or 21, depending on the type of ammunition they want to buy. The lawmakers say sellers are not currently required to ask for ID in such cases.
In signing statements advocating their proposals, Haywood and Kane cited the mass shooting at Philadelphia’s Roxborough High School last September. Police said at least six people – five gunmen and a getaway driver – were involved in the ambush of 14-year-old football player Nicolas Elizalde.
According to police, the shooter simply walked into a Philadelphia gun shop and bought the ammo used in the shooting despite being a convicted felon.
“Although Pennsylvania law bars an individual with a felony record from purchasing firearms or ammunition, the Commonwealth does not regulate the sale or purchase of bullets,” a police statement said.
Asked for additional comments by DVJournal, the two senators stood by their signing statements.
Jim Stoker, the president of Pennsylvania-based Firearms Owners Against Crime, believes the bills are “absolutely not” necessary.
“First of all, we know that background checks don’t do anything to stop crime,” said Stoker. “That’s been proven time and time again. The bad guys traditionally don’t source their guns through retailers because they have to identify themselves. If it doesn’t work with firearms, it’s certainly not going to make a difference with ammunition.
“Registering ammunition or serializing ammunition through microstamping just means they will be able to identify who bought the ammunition at a store,” he continued. “It’s not going to change the course of where that ammunition goes, where the bad guys get their ammunition.
“It’s certainly going to add an expense or an intrusion on the Second Amendment or, in our case, Article 1, Section 21 in Pennsylvania,” Stoker added. “So, once again, they’re going to add fees and do what they can to inconvenience the law-abiding citizens of the commonwealth while having zero impact on criminals or crime across the state.”
The senators insist their proposal is both modest and effective.
“Gun violence is prevalent in America, and its web of impact reaches everyone, including children. Forty-eight children under the age of 19 are shot every day in the United States, resulting in 2,900 deaths and 14,500 injuries each year. Folks, these are kids that we’re talking about.”
Stephen Gutowski of The Reload, one of the nation’s leading news sites on gun policy, says the idea has already been tried.
“Ammunition background checks are extremely uncommon throughout the country given their redundant nature since gun sales at licensed dealers already require background checks,” Gutowski said. “California is one of the few states that require background checks for ammo purchases.
“And it’s very unlikely that a proposal like this will go anywhere in the Pennsylvania legislature,” he added.
Haywood and Kane called the ID bill “common sense requirement to protect children and all Pennsylvanians from gun violence. This legislation would require all individuals to provide an official form of photographic identification with every purchase of firearm ammunition in the commonwealth. In addition, it would reinforce current law to ensure that firearm ammunition is not sold to underage children.”
Stoker said that most stores already have an ID policy to buy ammunition.
“The stores protect themselves by requiring ID already,” he said. “It’s beyond redundant. If the law is already on the books, why do we need another one?
“We know the vast majority of crimes in Pennsylvania are perpetrated by the same offenders over and over again,” Stoker continued. “Why don’t we do something about that instead of going after the grandpa that wants to take his gun out with his grandson and teach him how to hunt deer?”
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